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Map of national Alzheimer's Disease Centers

One of only 29 national Alzheimer's Disease Centers

Unique researchKU Alzheimer's Disease scientists have received international attention for research on how various lifestyle factors, including fitness and physical activity, affect normal aging and Alzheimer's disease. | Read more here

On the map: Burns has helped put KU Medical Center on the map as a site for national studies of Alzheimer's Disease. Burns received national attention recently for a study that found links between body weight and Alzheimer's. | Read more about Dr. Burns here.

Attacking Alzheimer's with research

Proteins and tangles: Recent findings show that the brains of people with Alzheimer's are riddled with plaques made of a protein called beta-amyloid and tangles of another called tau. Among researchers, that much is agreed upon, but whether the plaques and tangles are a cause or a consequence of the disease is still up for debate.

"You may have plaques in your brain, but that doesn't necessarily mean you have Alzheimer's disease. It merely indicates that your brain is aging."
-- Russell Swerdlow

Brain function: Swerdlow believes that clearing the amyloid and tau proteins from patients' brains won't ultimately cure the disease. He and his research group are working to understand how brain energy metabolism differs between younger and older brains. Someday, Swerdlow hopes to learn how to manipulate brain metabolism to help older brains regain function. | Read more about Dr. Swerdlow here

Weight and Alzheimer'sBurns and ADC scientist Eric Vidoni found that overweight or obese middle-age people have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, but that the reverse was true for people over 60, who were more at risk if they had a low BMI. | Read more here.

"In general, we think of Alzheimer's as a brain disease, but this is evidence that there are systemic problems throughout the body in the early stages of Alzheimer's." -- Jeffrey Burns

Maternal linkAnother study, by Dr. Robyn Honea, found that a maternal link to Alzheimer's disease. The study indicated that a person has a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if the person's mother had the disease compared to those without a family history or whose father had the disease. | Read more here.

"The goal is to do a scan on someone before they get the disease and be able to tell if they're at higher risk or starting to deteriorate." -- Robyn Honea

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Russell Swerdlow, M.D.

Russell Swerdlow, M.D.

"Our studies are showing that brain energy metabolism plays a role in Alzheimer's disease - and perhaps a central role. We think manipulating brain energy metabolism could be a major breakthrough in getting to the root of Alzheimer's."

Jeff Burns, M.D.

Jeff Burns, M.D.

"At KU, we aren't willing to wait another 10 years to see if new clinical trials show anti-amyloid therapies are effective in younger subjects who haven't shown signs of the disease yet. That is why we have been pursuing research around how metabolism and energy affects brain cells."